Northern Hawk Owl, and the NMC Hawk Owls

northern hawk owl, chippewa county, michigan

northern hawk owl, chippewa county, michigan, photo by twurdemann

Northwestern Michigan College here in Traverse City has just under 5000 students and is turning from a 2 year to a 4 year college. As part of this, they will be adding athletics again, and that means they need a mascot. So this week they selected a new one – the NMC Hawk Owls.

With a weight of half a pound to a pound, a length of just 14-16″ and a wingspan of just under 2 1/2 feet, the Northern Hawk Owl appears to be the perfect mascot:

Northern Hawk Owl – Surnia ulula at

Hunting & Food: Takes mainly small mammals as prey, mostly lemmings and voles. Will also take birds, frogs and occasionally fish. Prey weight is normally below 70g. Hunts by searching from a lookout, then quickly flying to swoop down on prey. Has been observed hovering also.

Breeding: Male advertises potential nest sites, and the female selects one. Nests in Cavities on top of broken trunks, natural tree hollows, abandoned holes of large woodpeckers. Will accept nest boxes, and occasionally use a stick nest of a larger bird. Laying normally occurs in April and the first half of May. Clutch sizes are usually between 5 and 13 eggs, each 36-44mm  x 29-34.4mm. Eggs are laid at 1-2 day intervals, and incubated by the female alone for 25-30 days. During this time, the male feeds the female.

Northern Hawk-Owl at Wikipedia:

The Northern Hawk-Owl has been said to resemble a hawk in appearance and in behavior. In North America, its appearance in flight is often considered similar to a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). It has been suggested that this may be because the Hawk-Owl may partially fill an important diurnal niche similar to that of day hunters such as hawks.

…Northern Hawk Owls are unevenly distributed and highly variable throughout the boreal forest. They live mostly in open coniferous forests, or coniferous forests mixed with deciduous species such as larchbirchpoplar, and willow. They are found in muskegs, clearings, swamp valleys, meadows, or recently burnt areas, and generally avoid dense spruce-fir forests. Winter habitat is usually the same as breeding habitat. 

Northern Hawk Owl at All About Birds adds that their International conservation status is Least Concern and some cool facts:

  • The Northern Hawk Owl can detect prey by sight at a distance of up to 800 meters (half a mile).
  • Though it is thought to detect prey primarily by sight, the Northern Hawk Owl can find and seize prey under 30 cm (1 foot) of snow.

The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory adds that Northern Hawk Owl were observed yesterday in Trout Lake and Dryburg, Michigan.

Grabbing a mouse through a foot of snow? That’s a seriously scary predator … at least if you’re the prey. Click all those links to explore photos, calls and more about these tiny terrors.

Check this photo from Chippewa County out on black and see more including another shot of this owl in twurdemann’s Birds slideshow.

More owls (and also apparently words that end with owl) on Michigan in Pictures.


One thought on “Northern Hawk Owl, and the NMC Hawk Owls

  1. NICE! I saw a Northern Hawk Owl in Sault Ste. Marie in December, maybe this very bird. I would like to add that this is a rare bird for Michigan, and can only ever be seen in the winter, as it spends the rest of the year in the northern boreal forest of Canada. This bird only tends to show up in the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula, and only when food is scare in the harsh Canadian winter.


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